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10/16/2014
08:05 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
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8 Germ Hotspots In The Office

Cold and flu germs can lurk in unexpected places. Here are eight workplace hot zones to avoid.
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(Image: Andrew R. Dieselducy, Wikipedia)

Flu season is back, and if that's not worrisome enough, this year we've also got the very real specter of enterovirus and worries over Ebola. Germs are on everyone's mind -- and hands -- right now. Everyone knows the obvious places where germs lurk: doorknobs, subway straps, and public restrooms, to name a few. But what about the lesser-known places where germs are lurking? Where are they lying in wait for even the most careful germaphobe?

Here's a slideshow of the eight most overlooked ambush points at the office. All have some traits in common: They get lots of use from many people. They require physical contact. They generally don't get cleaned regularly, even if your workplace employs the best cleaning staff in the world. And people interact with them without thinking about it.

You know some of the basic ways to protect yourself: Get a flu shot; wash your hands frequently; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; maybe skip the handshake. It also helps to get plenty of sleep and eat right. As long as you follow these basic rules, there's no reason to get crazy about germs. But it helps to think about what you touch and how you touch it.

Check out the following list of eight surprisingly germy places in the office. Tell us which ones scare you the most and what you do about it. And, most importantly, stay healthy.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2014 | 1:51:36 PM

The one that always creeps me out is the dreaded "visitor bathroom key" the receptionist gives you when you are visiting a client, interviewing at a new firm or even at the dentist's office! Heaven only knows where people set that thing down when they walk in the bathroom and you know no one ever cleans it. Grody to the max.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
10/16/2014 | 1:56:17 PM
Re:
@vnewman2- Ugh...I am trying to figure out whether to thank you for bringing up a good example or yell at you for grossing me out. :)

I've decided to thank you for reviving "grody to the max." God bless the 80's. 

One really questions once you bring this up, why a respectable company or doctor would feel a need to lock the visitor's bathroom to begin with. What do they think we're going to do in there that we wouldn't do after asking for the key?

Keys in general are probably among the dirtiest things we interact with. Like money they are something we touch with our hand and never get cleaned. And in certain settings they are touched by multiple people. The only thing that is vaguely saving them is that they problem aren't a great envirnment for germs to live on long term. They probably don't get much food for the germs and because they are metal, they have variable temperatures. That said, I think I'm going to go throw my keys in the dishwasher. :)
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
10/16/2014 | 2:43:26 PM
Re:
@David - hahahaha :)  You're welcome.  I was going to add a "Gag me with a spoon - totally" but I hit Post with my trigger finger.

It's interesting but I can't think of one office I've visited lately where the bathrooms weren't locked.  I long for the old days where one could roam free into bathrooms across the land without being stopped by the Gestapo.  

I live in LA, so most bathrooms in office buildings here are in unmonitored hallways so I'm sure it is a security measure against peeping toms and homeless people.  

And not to gross you out further but the dentist keys that are attached to toothbrushes for the cute factor REALLY takes the cake.  I know someone at some point has used or done something nasty with that thing! 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
10/16/2014 | 4:39:09 PM
You missed...
...keyboards. More germs than toilet seats, reports claim.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
10/16/2014 | 4:46:31 PM
Re: You missed...
@Tom- that one doesn't scare me, because my keyboard has MY germs on it. And I seldom share keyboards with people. That said, if you still have an office that requires visitors to sign in with a keyboard at a terminal, that would definitely be a hot spot. 
RobertH590
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RobertH590,
User Rank: Strategist
10/17/2014 | 11:02:54 AM
Nasty Finger Germs
I am glad I found out about germ resistant fingertip covers!  Accu-Text Smart Touch
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
10/17/2014 | 3:49:38 PM
Re: Nasty Finger Germs
@RobertH590- I think they sound great in theory, but don't they suffer from the same problem that has come back to haunt the folks treating the Ebola patient in Dallas? they think they were contaminated because it was hard to take the protective gear off without contaminating yourself. 
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
10/18/2014 | 8:29:24 PM
Re: Nasty Finger Germs

@Dave   Speaking of the Ebola incidents in Dallas.   I just goes to show, germs grow into viruses and viruses become deadly, so while I was taking this topic a bit tongue and cheek - it really is more important than ever to be aware of what one touches throughout the day.

 

I have always been a big hand washer, so I am hoping this will continue to keep me relatively safe.

David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
10/22/2014 | 2:31:06 PM
Re: Nasty Finger Germs
@Technocrati- Yeah, it is easy to make light of it. But Ebola aside, the lost productivity alone is worth it to companies and employees to take it more seriously. Plus, I just got a virus from my son who got the Croup. It stinks. Who wants to get sick if they can help it?
Alan E. Williams
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Alan E. Williams,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2014 | 3:11:32 PM
Re: Nasty Finger Germs
Hadn't heard that about the lower risk for heart attack but i agree, i'll take all the help i can get when it comes to lowering the risk.
RobertH590
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RobertH590,
User Rank: Strategist
10/19/2014 | 8:33:51 AM
Re: Nasty Finger Germs
David Wagner, 

You  make a very good point.  However the nice thing about the Accu-Text Smart Touch is it merely slides over the fingertip and is used for many different applications in the public sector touch screens, credit card machines and the likes.  In my opinion,  to have a chance to protect one's self, is better than no chance at all.  This fingertip cover simply helps to limit contact with germs, while at the same time the device's antimicrobial components begins to break down contaminants that it comes into contact with.  How it will react to Ebola?  I don't know!  However, I do know that it can be worn on top of or beneath protective gloves adding additional layers of protection in a critical area i.e. Fingertips.  This would cause me to believe that it may certainly be better than not having  any additional protection.

Thank you for your comment!
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2014 | 8:56:13 PM
Re: Nasty Finger Germs
I'll have to look into those. I make sure and keep hand sanitizer and nitrile gloves handy for my technical team that sits at other people's keyboard to fix problem all day long. It may not help that much, but I figure it can't hurt either.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
10/18/2014 | 8:24:01 PM
Re: Nasty Finger Germs

"... germ resistant fingertip covers!  Accu-Text Smart Touch "

 

@RobertH590    That really exists ?   Cool idea. I wonder how many get offended when you are wearing them around the office ? :/

Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
10/18/2014 | 8:18:59 PM
Germs and The Elbow Bump
Thanks for all the reminders of just how germ infested our World is - As a result , it won't be long until the "Elbow bump" becomes a common form of greeting.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
10/20/2014 | 5:08:30 PM
Re: Germs and The Elbow Bump
My elbows spend most of the day by my keyboard which is apparently as disgusting as a toilet seat, so I don't think I'm doing you any favors with the elbow bump either...
Alan E. Williams
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Alan E. Williams,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2014 | 11:39:14 AM
Staying healthy during cold/flu season
Get a flu shot, approximately 36,000 people die every year from the flu. Wash your hands often, with soap, not just the courtesy rinse. Keep your hands away from your face, i.e. eyes, nose and mouth. Eat right and take your vitamins, lots of vitamin C. Get plenty of rest, sleep is not overrated. You may still get ill but your body will be better prepared to fight the infection and recover more rapidly. Last but not least – STAY HOME if you are ill, the rest of us don't want it!
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
10/22/2014 | 2:28:54 PM
Re: Staying healthy during cold/flu season
@Alan- Research is also starting to show that the flu shot lowers chances of heart attack even in patients that never get exposed to the flu. No one is sure why, but that's a nice added bonus. 
Alan E. Williams
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Alan E. Williams,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2014 | 3:14:01 PM
Re: Staying healthy during cold/flu season
Opps, replied to the wrong post.  Newbie in action.

Hadn't heard that about the lower risk for heart attack but i agree, i'll take all the help i can get when it comes to lowering the risk.

 
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
10/29/2014 | 12:05:54 PM
Germ factories
I have small kids so I think I might remember feeling healthy, way back when I got decent sleep and didn't have little germ factories leaving messes everywhere. But I suddenly feel the need to carry alot more antibacterial gel around. Oh, and I have GOT to throw out those sponges at the sink now.

The real trick (which I've never managed) is not to touch your face after touching hotspots until you've washed them. That or work as a kindergarten teacher for a year, after that you're pretty much innoculated from most germs. Anyother crazy places you've noticed as germ hotspots?
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